Socialist Worker

Styx - showing up the brutality of borders

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2651

A scene from Styx

A scene from Styx

Styx centres around a woman on a solo sailing journey from Gibraltar to Ascension Island who comes across African refugees in a sinking fishing vessel.

This film starts very slowly and a lot of time is used showing lingering shots of the ocean and the protagonist reading books.

You find out she is a doctor who owns a sailing boat and lives in Gibraltar.

Aside from that she remains mysterious.

She speaks little and has only one significant connection with anyone else in the film.

This is important as it makes it clear she isn’t a hero or particularly special. This is part of the strength of the film.

Styx could have very easily become a heart-warming film about finding commonality and humanity between two people with vastly different backgrounds.

But it remains unsentimental when the doctor saves a young refugee boy who jumps from the fishing boat.

Nothing distracts from the horror of the sinking ship and refugees drowning.

The film shows a brutal system of enforced border controls that means refugee deaths are a near-daily occurrence. It also shows the racism that infects all parts of our world.

Coastguards are slow to act. A freight ship tells the doctor that it’s company policy not to save refugees.

The doctor, a white, well-off German woman, is told to stay away from the ship as it will be “dangerous”.

All of this contributes to the feeling that, in this world, refugees’ lives do not matter.

Directed by Wolfgang Fischer. In cinemas from Friday

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